Dem 51
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GOP 49
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McCarthy to House GOP: You Never Give Me Your Money

Given that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) eventually managed to land the speakership, and that he managed to navigate a couple of crises since then (like the debt ceiling mess), we were prepared to give him credit for being more skillful than it seemed, and to propose that maybe he has more of Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) cat-herding abilities than we thought. However, his handling of the budget situation, which is arguably the single biggest item on his annual to-do list, has us thinking that he's not so skillful, after all.

Every maneuver that McCarthy has tried, as part of this slow-moving train wreck, has failed spectacularly. He endeavored, for example, to buy some goodwill by promising to investigate a possible Biden impeachment. Did that gain the speaker anything? Certainly, it did not mollify the Freedom Caucusers, who said: "That's nice, now let's talk about cutting the DoJ's budget in half." The proposal also got Senate Republicans clucking about how it's a bad idea, while alienating Democrats and making them less amenable to compromise.

The Speaker has also been unable to make even the most basic of progress on the actual spending bills. Generally speaking, the easiest thing for a Republican House to agree upon is spending money on defense. And even easier than agreeing to spend that money is agreeing to bring the bill to the floor for debate. Typically, such procedural resolutions are approved along party lines. Yesterday, however, McCarthy failed for the second time this week to get the defense bill to the floor, with five Freedom Caucusers joining with the Democrats to defeat the maneuver, 216-212.

(In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that one of the "nay" votes was Tom Cole, R-OK, who voted that way to preserve his right to bring the bill up again. So, it's really 215-213. That said, a Speaker who can't even get a bill up such a small hill probably can't get the bill up the much bigger hill of getting it actually passed.)

Particularly galling for McCarthy was that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has generally been an ally of his, flipped to "nay" because she doesn't want to give money to Ukraine. The Georgian observed that this kind of money never does any good, since what benefit did the U.S. get from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan? That's four wars where the U.S. engaged in combat directly, as opposed to Ukraine, where the U.S. is merely paying the bills. So, something of an apples to peaches comparison. One suspects that Greene's "revelation" might have less to do with her painstaking study of modern U.S. history, and more to do with the opportunity to score some extra headlines on a day when Volodymyr Zelenskyy was visiting Washington.

In any event, McCarthy was infuriated by the rejection. Speaking to reporters after, he fumed that "[These] individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. It doesn't work." Welcome to reality, Mr. Speaker, and congratulations on your keen insight. McCarthy also told his conference to go home and not return until Monday. Maybe he wants time for some behind-the-scenes maneuvering, maybe he was pitching a fit, maybe he thinks a cooling-down period is needed—who knows? Nonetheless, it's not a good look to give up three potential days of sausage-making when there are only eight days left until the government shuts down.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are rather enjoying the spectacle, and many of them have engaged in a bit of trolling. While the motion to bring the defense bill to the floor was failing, there was some audible razzing from the Democrats in the gallery. Joe Biden, who has a talent for getting in a subtle dig or two, tweeted: "Last time there was a government shutdown, 800,000 Americans were furloughed or worked without pay. But enjoy your weekend." Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who has that same talent, announced that he will promise to wear a suit on the floor of the Senate if Republicans agree not to shut down the government.

That said, while Democrats are indulging in a little schadenfreude right now, they know they'll eventually have to behave like the grown-ups in the room, and help reach a resolution of some sort. And so, House Democrats have already signaled that they are open to working with McCarthy (and Senate Republicans agree with us, and with anyone else who is living in the real world, that this is McCarthy's only viable option). Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is performing his best Tommy Tuberville impression, and is blocking the Senate from beginning work on a clean spending bill. However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who knows something about parliamentary tricks, has set in motion a workaround (attaching a spending resolution as an amendment to the bill that will reauthorize the FAA).

In any event, the soap opera is presumably off the air until Monday. And one week from today, we'll know if we have a budget or not. Or, possibly, a new Speaker. (Z)

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